This letter is to tell you about the amazing way Karen McCullough came into my life, first as person with information I needed and secondly as a friend. In May 2008 I was diagnosed with the blood and bone cancer multiple myeloma by an oncologist who had no experience treating a patient with this rare type of cancer. Her prognosis for me was grim and I felt quite hopeless as I researched bleak options on the internet. One week later my dental hygienist called and gave me Karen’s name as a potential resource. I called her right away and left her a message. She not only called me right back, she met me at a Starbucks in my city within the hour. I knew it was her right away by her big smile and friendly manor. She knew me by the “deer in the headlights” stare I gave her. Karen began with perhaps the greatest gift anyone has given me and that was when she asked me to tell her my story. You see that is invaluable to a newly diagnosed patient because everyone’s story is different and unique to them alone. She was the first person I met who not only had heard about multiple myeloma but knew about the disease. I think you could actually say she is a bit of an expert. She explained that her husband Jim battled the disease for 8 years and even though he did succumb to it, they did have many opportunities to create lasting family memories. That gave me hope.
Karen recommended a myeloma specialist in Los Angeles and even went a step further and called his secretary and made me an appointment for 4 days later. I went to that appointment with my family on a Thursday and began chemo on Saturday. It was amazing and the doctor she referred me to is still my doctor today. Karen came and visited me during my transplant preparation chemo and continues to keep tabs on me. I have enjoyed lunch with her and I cherish having her in my life.
Karen has the amazing ability to connect with people in a remarkable way and is passionate about making sure newly diagnosed cancer patients get to the specialist they need. There are just too many people who do not have an advocate and Karen is the one person that makes that her personal mission.
I continue on ongoing treatment for multiple myeloma but with the new drugs just getting FDA approval the future looks bright. I thank Karen for giving me the direction I needed 4 years ago to battle this scary
type of cancer. She can be in my driver’s seat anytime!
~ Karen Renne